In one of those little ‘signs of the times’ that makes you wish you lived in a completely different ‘time’, a nationally known doughnut franchise giddily announced that you can now send in your order via text message, go right to the front of the line when you arrive and pick up your donuts.
The doughnut people were quite proud of this, as if this innovation was the greatest thing since the invention of the sprinkle. Yet when we dissect this concept, the many things wrong with it become readily apparent. I will go so far as to say that this is the greatest threat to our culture since Strictly Come Dancing. Here’s why.
Out of order
The ordering process always requires two parties – an ordering party and an order-taking party. This means the doughnut place has to devote someone to watching for text messages and filling those orders, when instead that same person could be helping customers already in line, thus reducing overall wait times, thus eliminating any benefit to be gained in the first place from ordering doughnuts on your mobile phone from the comfort of your car. Yes, the person who thought up this concept is one filling short of an Èclair. The person taking the electronic order – I think of them as the e-doughnut fulfillment specialists – cannot be just any person. This person would have to possess the special skills demanded of text message recipients; specifically, the ability to know that ‘4 glz 2 c/ck 2 b/c cof’ translates to ‘four glazed, two chocolate cake, two bear claws and coffee’ and not “four girls, two o’clock check out, two border collies and a coffin,” which would lead to obvious cash register disputes.
To train the average doughnut store person to be an e-doughnut fulfillment specialist would take – based on my informal estimate of the intelligence of the average doughnut store worker – approximately three years.
So Many questions
Is it really a good idea to combine the laziness of not having to stand in line for a few minutes with the unhealthiness of a food that is, basically, industrial-strength lard and heavily sugared varnish?
If you follow this lifestyle, does the law in your state require that you disclose this to your health insurer? Why doughnuts? You know where it would really make a lot of sense to be able to send a text message in advance and not have to wait in line for service? The place where you get your license plates. Or your dentist’s office. Or funeral homes.
Why text messages? How is this better than just calling in your order? Is text messaging considered more hip and more accurately targeted at the demographic that frequents doughnut shops? Is text-message ordering just an intermediate step between phoning in an order and the day, in the not too distant future, when wi-fi technology will allow the doughnut store to email doughnuts directly to your expanding buttocks?
Most important, what will it do to our social fabric? Hungry text-messagers will start rushing into doughnut stores, ignoring the line of patient yet sullen non-text-messagers and breathlessly demanding their orders. These will be presented to them immediately by doughnut store personnel who up until this time have pretended not to see that there are other hungry people around. Some sullen non-text-messager will fail to see how this store policy is of any possible benefit to him and some text-messager will fail to remove his order from the store without being punched in the nose.
The unsaid assumption about technology is that it always makes things better but the ‘text messages for doughnuts’ case shows the potential technology has for creating a dual caste system.
The haves are pitted against the have-nots or at least the have-doughnuts-faster are pitted against the have-no-doughnuts-yet-because-you-butted-in-front-of-me. Do you want to bet that the electronic orderers also feel superior to those of us who are standing in line? Probably they think we are some cream short of a puff.